HONOLULU (KHON2) — It’s the end of an era as the state’s last coal-operated power plant prepares to close. While it’s a step in the right direction to reduce greenhouse emissions, residents will notice an uptick in their electricity bills.
In two weeks, AES Corporation, Hawaii’s last coal-fired power plant will cease production.
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“Today we’re here to commemorate the end of the coal era in Hawaii,” Gov. David Ige said, addressing a crowd of AES employees and government officials.
September 1, 2022, is the anniversary of the plant’s opening in 1992 and marks the end of its contract with Hawaiian Electric.
HECO President & CEO Shelee Kimura said it’s a historic event because the AES plant has given so much to the community over the last three decades.
“I’m just really thankful to AES and all of their dedicated employees who have made sure that we could keep the lights on for so many years,” Kimura explained.
The closure adheres to state law and moves Hawaii closer to achieving its goal of 100% renewable energy by 2045.
The AES facility is one of the state’s largest producers of greenhouse gases emitting more than 1.5 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year according to HECO.
AES Hawaii market business leader Sandra Larsen said closing the plant is the right thing to do in terms of climate change and accelerating the future of energy.
The downside, electricity costs will go up about 7 percent according to HECO.
“Just a few months ago it would have only been $2 a month for customers but now it’s going be $15 a month on a typical customer bill,” Kimura said.
The Ukraine war and Russian conflicts may push prices even higher, but she said she hopes it will only be temporary.
The closure also impacts the company’s more than 40 employees.
Jason Trembley has worked for AES as a control room operator for about 12 years.
“It is a little bittersweet because there’s a lot of great guys here who work really hard. It’s sad to see it go,” Trembley said. “We understand that we’ve got to move on with the laws being what they are so we are supporting AES.”
According to Larsen, some employees will stay and continue remediation and dismantling of the plant.
“We just want to make sure that every single person who wants a job continues and has employment,” Larsen explained.
The AES Executive Vice President Bernerd Da Santos said decommissioning is expected to begin in January 2023.
“And then they will have this dismantling process,” Da Santos explained. “So that means that everything that is here is going to be removed from the site.”
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He said the process should take about two years to complete.